A Mom's Guide To Pumping And Flying (Know Your Rights!)

A Mom’s Guide To Pumping And Flying (Know Your Rights!)

I’ll never forget the first time I traveled with my son. 

He just turned three months old and we were on our way to introduce him to my husband’s family, who lived half the country away.

I had him on an ideal nursing schedule and my supply was soaring. We had feeding and pumping down pat!

While we made it there in one piece, it was a bit tricky and time consuming preparing for this big venture.

After all, I was a nursing and pumping mom—there was a lot of pack and consider.

But, I refused to sacrifice my baby’s needs (and my own nursing goals), just to give in to convenience.

Whether you’re flying for business or pleasure, a nursing mom has got to pump!

If you’re traveling with your baby in tow, or if you simply want to return home with some of your supply, moms have the right to pump and travel with reasonable quantities of breast milk. 

No questions asked.

So if you’re a first timer in this realm, be sure to read through this guide to ensure you’re packed and prepared for your flight.

Pumping & Flying Packing List

The first thing you want to ensure is that you have everything packed from this list:

  • 1
    Breast pump. Most women use electric pumps today, which can come with a few parts. Always make sure your parts accompany your pump and that you double check before leaving your home. If you’re taking a long flight, or won’t be home for a while, there’s also no harm in packing a manual pump in case your electric pump breaks or malfunctions.
  • 2
    Breast shields & pumping accessories. Pack the goodies that you need to make the milking action happen. And, it’s never a bad idea to pack more than you think you’ll need.
  • 3
    Battery pack & extra batteries. Yes, yes, and yes to batteries. Even if you utilize rechargeable batteries, bring additional packs of batteries along. You never want to find yourself in a situation where you aren’t able to get your pump to work just because you didn’t take extra precautions. 
  • 4
    Cooler. A small cooler (or insulated bag) is what you need to transport your milk safely. Whether it’s fresh or frozen, it needs the right environment to stay preserved. Some moms prefer a hard cooler, while others prefer a soft one (they feel it’s easier to stow overhead).
  • 5
    Ice packs. Several ice packs are a good idea. Whether they are plastic or gel infused, you are allowed to bring them on the plane with you. You may even want to stash a few in your checked bags in case you run into any problems with them leaking, getting misplaced, etc. 
  • 6
    Milk storage bags. Milk storage bags are small, lightweight, and take up hardly any space. So, there’s no reason not to bring a lot. They can also double as ice packs if you’re in a pinch!
  • 7
    Wipes/pump cleaning supplies. It’s so important to take care of your pumping supplies. Always keep a small pack of sanitizing wipes on you, and whatever else you normally clean your pump with at home. All these accessories and supplies should easily fit in you pump bag or diaper bag. You can even keep some in your purse!
  • 8
    Nursing pads. If you’re traveling recently after giving birth and your milk supply is in full force, you may want to pack some nursing pads. They help clean up leaks and assist you in avoiding embarrassing marks on your top. 
  • 9
    Nursing bra. If you want to pump on the plane and you aren’t overly concerned with trekking it into the bathroom and pumping in a confined space, they you’ll want to make sure you wear (or pack) a nursing bra. This allows you to pump easily and discreetly! 
  • 10
    Nipple cream. Nipple cream is a great item to pack if you get in a jam and start to experience nipple bleeding, cracking, or pain. Purchase a travel sized tube so there’s no issues with tossing it into your baby bag or purse. 

Know Your Rights

Did you know that you're absolutely entitled to fly with your breast milk?

Well, unfortunately, when you read the news it's apparent that not everyone at the TSA has gotten the memo yet.

One mom had to pay $150 to check her cooler which was filled with breast milk, and yet another even had her milk dumped out!

You have no idea how angry this makes me!

When you're a nursing mom and you're traveling through a U.S. airport, you have certain rights. 

Pay close attention and never let some uninformed TSA agent tell you otherwise.

  • Breast milk is permitted in reasonable quantities at security checkpoints. Always notify an officer and remove the milk from your carry on bag so it can be screened apart from your other objects.
  • If you’re carrying milk in excess of 3.4 ounces in your carry on bag, these liquids should be X-rayed (the FDA deems this safe).
  • You may have to pour out a small amount into an empty container for additional tests.
  • If you don’t want the milk x-rayed, you can refuse. However, additional steps need to take place to clear the liquid (you will also have to be patted down and go through a more thorough screening process).
  • At no point should your milk be dumped if you do not have the previous options offered to you. Certain protocol needs to be followed!
  • You also can bring breast milk on a plane, regardless if your child is with you or not.
  • You can carry on cooling devices, like ice packs, frozen gel packs, and other things to keep your milk cool (just keep them in your carry on). 
  • It's ok if your cooling accessories get slushy or turn partially frozen. They will just be subject to additional screening.

Before You Leave for the Airport

There are a few things you can do before leaving for the airport to make traveling and pumping easier, whether you're traveling with your baby or flying solo.  

The top thing you should do is double check your pumping list and make sure your pump is packed in your diaper bag or carry on bag. Things can get a little tricky without it (especially if you’re not traveling with your little one).

Next, you should consider pumping the same time as your baby would eat. This helps keep your milk supply up, and it just makes life easier. 

Then, if you plan on nursing, why not breastfeed prior to take off? Again, it just makes things easier for everyone!

Finally, have a printed copy of the TSA guidelines in your purse. You never know if you’ll need to pull them out and fight for your rights as a traveling mom. 

Tips for Pumping at the Airport

If you’re pumping before your flight takes off, you may want to consider a few of these helpful tips:

  • Arrive early. Security can take some time to get through, especially if you run into any problems with your milk and you need to go through additional screening procedures.
  • Be organized. Keep your milk, pump, and bottles separate from your other things in your diaper bag so they are easy to access.
  • Find a "nursing lounge". Many airports are getting with the times and providing necessary amenities for moms who need to pump or nurse, but don’t want to do it in the middle of the airport. 
  • Use the family restroom. If you cannot find a nursing lounge, consider utilizing a family restroom so you can pump in peace.

Tips for Pumping on the Plane

In some circumstances (like a very long flight), you may need to pump your milk on the plane. If this is the case, consider these tips to help you have an easier time:

  • Buy a window seat. This ensure plenty of privacy!
  • Pack a nursing cover. This helps you remain comfortable and discreet—especially if you are riding next to a complete stranger in the next seat.
  • Have your gear ready to go. Have your stuff set up prior to pumping. This way, you’ll be fumbling around less, be more relaxed, and will be ready to go.
  • Pump in the restroom. Worst case scenario, you can pump in the restroom. No, you don’t have much room, but this works well for moms who want optimal privacy and who just don’t feel ok with pumping next to a stranger.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Milk Cold

Expressing your milk is half the battle. Now, you need to keep it cold so it stays safe for your little one to consume.

Here are five tips to keep it nice and cool:

  • 1
    Use an ice pack. Shop around online to find an ice pack or two that has gotten great reviews in regards to staying cold.
  • 2
    Use an insulated bag. Insulated storage bags keep cool stuff the perfect temperature.
  • 3
    Don't open and close your bag. If you want to keep something cold in an insulated bag, the key is keeping it sealed shut! There’s really no need for you to open and close your bag unless you’re adding a new milk storage bag into the mix.
  • 4
    Use storage bags. If you have a malfunction with your ice pack, consider filling up a milk storage bag with water and freezing it so you can keep your supply nice and cold. 
  • 5
    Use glass storage bottles. Glass stays colder, longer!

3 Tips for Packing Your Milk on the Way Home

  • 1
    Make sure your ice packs are ready to go. Oftentimes, moms get so consumed with packing their stuff up when getting ready to return home, that they neglect to make sure their ice packs are in the freezer with plenty of time to get frozen. Always make this a top priority! 
  • 2
    Set a reminder. Use your phone’s alert system to send you a reminder to pack your pumped milk. You don’t want to go through the process for nothing! I can’t tell you how many of my girlfriends have left their hotel and left their milk in the fridge!
  • 3
    Use frozen milk bags as ice packs. Don’t be afraid to freeze a few bags of milk. They will act as additional ice packs and will help keep newly expressed milk cold until you get home.

Wrapping Up

In the end, pumping while traveling is a lot of work, but it’s certainly worth it. 

And, you’re also well within your rights to do so.

Be sure to be ultra-organized, ultra-prepared, and very in-the-know when it comes down to what you can and cannot do, whether you’re traveling with your baby or not.

Stand your ground and pump when and where it’s right for you!  


Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place for new and expecting moms to come to for practical pregnancy advice, parenting tips, and baby care tricks.

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